Tag Archives: pheasants

Love IV: 18

Left (Win).

kumo to nari
ame to naru chō
nakazora no
yume ni mo mieyo
yowa narazu tomo
Whether you become clouds, or
Whether you become rain
In the heart of the heavens
Let me glimpse you in a dream,
Though nighttime it is not…

Lord Ari’ie.


kurenu ma wa
kakariseba ya
yamadori mo
yowa ni omoi ni
The hours with no darkness:
Is it because they are so?
As the pheasants do
At night to thoughts of love
Can we vow to turn?


The Right state: we find no particular faults to mention. The Left state: the mention of ‘pheasants’ (yamadori) comes a bit abruptly, does it not?

In judgement: the style of the Left’s poem sounds utterly elegant and beautiful. The Right’s mention of ‘pheasants’ is unnecessary. Thus, the Left wins.

Winter I: 27



kigisu naku
sagano no hara no
miyuki ni wa
furuki ato o ya
saki tazunuran
The pheasants cry
In the fields of Sagano;
On this Imperial Progress,
The traces of times long gone
Should we visit first?

Lord Kanemune.


Right (Win).


suberagi no
kyō no miyuki wa
mikarino no
kusaha mo nabiku
mono ni zo arikeru
On His Majesty’s
Progress on this day
To His hunting grounds
The very blades of grass do bow
Before Him

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right state that pheasants do not cry out during the winter, to which the Left reply that this is seen occasionally in recent poetry. The Left then comment that mi occurs too often in the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s ‘traces of times long gone’ (furuki ato o ya) is most fine [yoroshiku haberubeshi]. On pheasants crying in winter, it goes without saying that they do not, and in this poem in particular, I wonder about the appropriateness of ‘pheasants crying’ (because it was convention to avoid anything with potentially negative associations in a poem on the topic of Imperial Visits). The Right’s poem commences with ‘His Majesty’ (suberagi no) and continues with ‘the very blades of grass do bow’ (kusaha mo nabiku) which has felicitous associations. Thus, the Right must win.

Winter I: 25



ōhara ya
nobe no miyuki ni
tokoro ete
soratoru kyō no
mashirō no taka
Plain for an Imperial Progress is
Most apt;
Catching prey a’wing this day
Is a white banded hawk!



Right (Win).


saga no hara
hashiru kigisu no
kata ato wa
kyō no miyuki ni
kakurenaki kana
On the field of Saga
Racing, the pheasants’
Today’s Imperial Progress
Will not come at all…



The Right state that ‘most apt’ (tokoro ete) is rarely heard in poems. The Left reply that ‘track’ (kata ato) is the same.

Shunzei’s judgement: The poem of the Left sounds grandiose, but there is something dubious about it. When starting with Ōhara (ōhara ya), one expects it to be followed by ‘Oshio Mountain’, as it suggests the field of Ōhara. Without that following Oshio Mountain, when one encounters Ōhara, on recollects both ‘misty clear waters’ and ‘waters of a pure, peaceful well’, and does not know to which the Ōhara refers. There is no precedent at all for Imperial vists to the Ōhara which lies at the foot of Mount Hiei. There are, however, for visits to Mount Oshio. In the poem on ‘waters of a pure, peaceful well’, it states that ‘though there are no birds, we visit for our pleasure’, so it would be impossible for the ‘white banded hawk’ to take prey a’wing there. I have heard ‘tracks’ before, but the poem has little sense of truly knowing ‘Saga Field’, yet there have, without doubt, been Imperial visits there, so ‘tracks’ must be the better poem.

Spring II: 12



tsuma koi no
yatake no kigisu
kokoro seyo
kayou susono mo
hito asarunari
Longing for your hen,
O, peak-dwelling Pheasant,
Take care!
For in the meadows on the mountains’ skirts
Folk are seeking you!



Right (Win).


karibito no
iruno no kigisu
tsuma koite
nakune bakari ni
mi o ya kaeten
Enter the meadows and, a pheasant,
Longing for his hen,
A single call
Exchanges for his life.



The Right state that the expression ‘peak-dwelling pheasant’ (yatake no kigisu) is ‘not one we’re familiar with’ [kikinarawazu], and question the use of ‘Folk are seeking’ (hito asaru) in the Left’s poem. (The standard expression would have been kigisu asaru (‘seeking pheasants’), and they are probably indicating some resistance to the Left’s unusual phrasing.) The Left, on the other hand, simply say that the Right’s poem ‘is satisfying’ [kanshin ari].

Shunzei’s judgement: The Right’s poem says ‘a single call’ (nakune bakari ni) will cost a the pheasant his life, but is a call really enough? When hunters enter a field, they have dogs to sniff out the pheasant’s scent, so he’d be caught whether he called or not. However, in the Left’s poem, ‘peak-dwelling’ (yatake) is pretentious [kotogotoshiku], and ‘folk are seeking’ (hito asaru) sounds dreadful [ito osoroshiku kikoyu]. Thus, in any case, the Right’s poem must win.

Spring II: 11



musashino ni
kigisu mo tsuma mo ya
kyō no kemuri no
shita ni nakunari
Upon Musashi Plain
Is the cock pheasant’s hen, also,
For today from beneath
The smoke come plaintive cries…

A Servant Girl.


Right (Win).


tsuma koi no
kigisu nakunari
asa kasumi
harureba yagate
Longing for his hen
The pheasant calls;
When morning’s haze
Has cleared, how swiftly
He hides among the grass.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right comment that the Left’s poem resembles Minamoto no Yorimasa’s poem:


kasumi wo ya
kemuri to mien
musasino ni
tuma mo komoreru
kigisu nakunari
The haze
Does seem as smoke;
On Musashino Plain
With his hen hidden
A pheasant calls.

The Left snap back that as Yorimasa’s poem is not included in the imperial anthologies, they could not have seen it, and in any case, what sort of criticism is it to say that it ‘resembles Yorimasa’s poem?’ As for the Right’s poem, ‘do pheasants always hide in the grass come the morning?’

Shunzei comments that it is ‘a bit much’ to avoid Yorimasa’s poem altogether. Although he does then go on to say that ‘there’s no reason to strong arm in examples’ of poems not in the imperial anthologies. However, ‘what’s the point’ of associating ‘today’ (kyō) so strongly with ‘smoke’ (kemuri)? (It was supposed to be used only for particular days, such as the first day of spring.) In the Right’s poem ‘When morning’s haze/Has cleared, how swiftly’ (asa kasumi/harureba yagate) ‘has nothing needing criticism about it’, so the their poem is superior this round.